Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question in the list below to jump down on this page and read its response. We also encourage you to browse the other sections of this site for more information about ARTstor.

About ARTstor

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Accessing ARTstor

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Images and data

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ARTstor collections

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Technology and services

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About ARTstor

What is the relationship between ARTstor and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation?
ARTstor was started by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2001. ARTstor became a separately functioning, independent non-profit organization in January 2004. In supporting ARTstor, the Foundation has sought to help the institutions that it has traditionally supported - museums and institutions of higher learning - to utilize advances in information technology to further education and scholarship. The Mellon Foundation continues to support the development of ARTstor's content, technical infrastructure, and software.

To read more about the origins of ARTstor, see our History & mission section. To learn more about ARTstor's early evolution, and the impetus for creating ARTstor, see the 2000, 2001 and 2002 President's Reports on the Mellon Foundation website.

What does the name "ARTstor" mean? Is ARTstor related to JSTOR?
The name ARTstor is derived from JSTOR, a digital library initiative previously sponsored by the Mellon Foundation whose name stands for Journal Storage. JSTOR, an independent non-profit organization, is a digital archive containing more than 13 million pages from more than 350 core academic journals, including a growing array of journals in the fields of art and architectural history. JSTOR improves access to scholarly literature for educational and research purposes, addressing preservation issues and progressively reducing the cost to institutional libraries of storing back issues of journals. While ARTstor differs from JSTOR in its content and features and is a separate organization from JSTOR, their similar names reflect the intention shared by JSTOR and ARTstor to serve as community resources. Much as JSTOR seeks to balance the interests of publishers and libraries, so ARTstor seeks to balance and mediate the interests of content owners in archives, libraries, and museums with those of end-users - all of whom share fundamental values and all of whom we view as important partners if we are to succeed in developing educational and scholarly resources that are rich, scalable and sustainable.

For more information about JSTOR, see

Who is ARTstor's intended audience?
ARTstor aims to serve a wide range of institutional and individual users in the cultural and educational communities. We seek to provide a resource that will meet the needs of scholars (including curators), students, and educators in the arts, humanities, and beyond, while also advancing the service programs of libraries, museums, and other organizations that support teaching and learning.

Is ARTstor available outside of the United States?
Yes, ARTstor is currently available to institutions of higher education and museums outside of the United States. For more information, see our section on Becoming a participant.

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Accessing ARTstor

Who can access the ARTstor collections?
All individuals affiliated with subscribing institutions may use the ARTstor Library. ARTstor will also be available to unaffiliated "walk-in" users at library workstations, where licensing institutions support such access to online library resources. Affiliated and "walk-in" users are not required to pay an additional fee to ARTstor for access to the resource. There is no restriction on the number of users that can access ARTstor at one time. To find out if your institution subscribes to ARTstor, see our list of current participants.

Do I need to register to use ARTstor?
No, you do not have to register to use ARTstor. As an unregistered user you can search, browse, view images, and access image data. In order to save images into groups, and use other higher-level features, you will need to register an email address with which your groups can be associated.

Does the message about having 120 or fewer days remaining for access mean that my account will be deleted in 120 days?
No, this is not related to your account or its contents; this pertains to the 120-day remote access grace period, which ARTstor automatically provides to registered users. It indicates that if you want to continue using ARTstor remotely, you have that number of days remaining before you'll need to access ARTstor from a valid IP address (on-campus or through your proxy server). For more information, see our section on Remote access.

Can students download the OIV?
Yes, the OIV is available to any registered user. Read more about the OIV.

Can ARTstor be used off-campus?
Yes, ARTstor can be used off-campus either through an institution's proxy server or by using the 120-day remote access period which ARTstor offers to registered users. For more information, see our section on Remote access.

Can the OIV be used off-campus?
Yes, you can download the OIV program to any machine. If the OIV is installed on-campus, it will be ready to use immediately. If you have installed the OIV on an off-campus machine, you will be prompted to authenticate and enter your ARTstor email address and password. Then it will be ready for use. Because the OIV is not a web program, most proxy servers will not work with it, so you will need to use the 120-day remote access period for the OIV (meaning, if you have logged in from a valid IP address in the past 120 days, you will be able to connect to ARTstor through the OIV.) You will be notified by the OIV if your 120-day period has expired. For more information, see our section on Remote access.

How can my institution license ARTstor?
Please refer to our How to subscribe section to learn how your institution can become a participant.

Why does ARTstor charge licensing fees?
The Mellon Foundation has provided substantial financial support for the early development of ARTstor's collections and services. However, the ongoing operational costs of such a service are significant, and it is essential that ARTstor develop a distribution model that will ensure that the ARTstor service is scalable and sustainable while also enabling subscribing institutions (especially libraries) to assign a value to ARTstor's collections and services. Like JSTOR, ARTstor therefore charges institutional licensing fees to defray some part of our ongoing operating costs. Ongoing development of ARTstor collections will be funded in other ways.

How much do institutional licenses for ARTstor cost? How are fee structures determined?
Institutional site licenses are based on the size and nature of the institution and the value that institution may be expected to derive from having ongoing, institution-wide access to ARTstor. Since ARTstor functions as a non-profit, these fees are calculated in an effort to support some part of ARTstor's ongoing operating costs, but not to generate any profits.

For more details about our fee structures, refer to the How to subscribe section.

How does ARTstor benefit institutions of higher education?
ARTstor hopes to serve institutions of higher education in several ways. One of ARTstor's primary objectives is to provide scholars, teachers, and students with ongoing access to a large and expanding library of digital images. ARTstor is a unique online information resource, complementing the wide range of such resources to which academic libraries currently subscribe. At the same time, ARTstor's tools and the nature of the ARTstor collections make ARTstor a valuable resource for important pedagogical applications, including online course reserves and classroom applications.

Another key goal of ARTstor is to minimize redundant efforts across institutions of higher education, both in the U.S. and abroad. The increasing need for digital images has become a significant and pressing problem for many institutions, which are utilizing limited resources to meet this need. ARTstor seeks to ease these institutional burdens, allowing subscribing institutions to reassess the need to build and sustain institutional image archives, whether analog (slides, photographs) or digital.

Finally, ARTstor helps higher education institutions in their ongoing efforts to reconfigure support services for users of digital technologies in teaching and learning, by providing both valuable digital collections and intuitive software tools.

How does ARTstor benefit museums?
Museums participate in and benefit from ARTstor in a number of ways. First, the ARTstor Digital Library is of value to museum professionals as end-users. Curators, conservators, exhibition planners, education professionals, and librarians utilize ARTstor in the same way that they use a library, a slide library, or a photo archive.

Second, ARTstor is playing an increasingly important role in disseminating information about museum collections. By enabling ongoing information exchanges with museums, we believe that ARTstor can progressively supplement and update the scholarship contained in museum collection and exhibition catalogs, thereby enhancing the utility of the ARTstor Digital Library for museums as well as many other users.

Additionally, we are exploring scalable ways to work with museums to add content to the Digital Library, to work together to solve common problems, and to explore new ways to gain community-wide benefits from new technologies. An example of this is the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative, launched in conjunction with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which we have made publication-quality images available free-of-charge for noncommercial use in scholarly publications.

Finally, we believe that museums benefit from an increased interest in visiting, viewing, and making use of museum collections. One of the driving impulses behind ARTstor is to help students and others learn about and appreciate art. Helping to educate future supporters of the arts benefits the entire arts community.

Does ARTstor serve independent scholars?
While ARTstor is currently only available to non-profit institutions, our licensing agreements include provision for ARTstor use by "walk-in" users at subscribing libraries, where licensing institutions support such access to online library resources. "Walk-in" users enjoy most of the benefits of individuals affiliated with licensing institutions, including the ability to search and browse the ARTstor Library and the ability to register with ARTstor in order to take advantage of other advanced features, including the ability to save image. We are exploring other ways of making ARTstor available to independent scholars.

Does ARTstor serve the K-12 community?
Yes, ARTstor is open to subscription by K-12 schools and has been licensed by many schools throughout the United States. For more information on how ARTstor serves the K-12 community and how a K-12 school can license ARTstor, please see our page on becoming a K-12 participant.

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Images and data

What is the quality and resolution of images in ARTstor?
The images in the Digital Library are derived from a range of sources. Collections may be built from color transparencies of varying resolution, scanned photographic prints, or direct digital photography of objects in museums and in the field. Professional vendors are utilized to digitize the analog materials at as a high resolution as permitted by the original source materials. One of ARTstor's goals is to learn more about what approaches to building collections are appropriate for different uses in different institutional settings.

Images are presented within the Digital Library at 72 DPI, which is the average monitor resolution. The sizes of ARTstor images range from 1500 pixels to 10,000 pixels on a side. To put this into perspective, the most common display resolution for computer monitors is 1024 x 768 pixels, making typical ARTstor image files two or more times larger than the monitor display.

You can read more about our image quality standards or about each collection's images.

Will ARTstor continue to improve the quality of images in its collections as better images become available?
ARTstor is committed to quality. Many of the ARTstor collections offer high-quality images and the most authoritative cataloging data available. Some collections are built around large curated image collections, such as those offered by photo archives and slide libraries, and are useful for many purposes. We believe that some of the images in these collections should be thought of as placeholders that will eventually be supplanted by (or supplemented with) better quality images, as they become available. For more information, see the next question regarding duplicate images.

Why do images appear in my search results that I was not expecting?
When you perform a basic search, ARTstor searches through the entire data record for the words or terms you've specified. These terms may appear in any data field, such as the description, so if you've entered an artist name, it does not necessarily mean you will see only works by that artist. For more precise searches, you can use the Advanced Search feature.

Why are there duplicates of some images in ARTstor?
You will find occasional duplication of images within some collections, as well as overlap between collections. Because of different opinions about which is the better image, and because ARTstor is not the authority for the original works, we provide all versions we have so that you can make the choice yourself about which to use. We have clustered duplicated images together so that you are initially presented with one preferred image that we feel is the truest representation of an object. Alternate versions are accessible by clicking on the "cluster" icon, located beneath the preferred image.

What is an FPX file?
FPX is the image file format used by our image servers to provide zoomable images within the ARTstor Digital Library.

Can I download images from ARTstor?
Yes, you can download any image in ARTstor by clicking the "Save" icon in the image viewer.

Because these images are being removed from the ARTstor environment, we must restrict the size in order to ensure that this resource will only be used for noncommercial, scholarly purposes; consistent with the interests of content providers. As of January 2008, approximately 95% of ARTstor's collections are available for download at 1024 pixels on the long side, while the remaining 5% may be downloaded at 400 pixels on the long side. Download size is determined on a collection basis by the provider of each collection.

In addition, as part of our Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative, select images within ARTstor may be downloaded free-of-charge at very high resolutions for noncommercial use in scholarly publications.

Can I reproduce ARTstor images in publications?
Images downloaded by clicking the "Save" icon in the image viewer within the Digital Library may not be used in publications, except for student papers, theses, and dissertations (provided the dissertations are not distributed widely). ARTstor images may not be used for any commercial purpose, such as being incorporated into a publication distributed by a press, regardless of whether that press is commercial or non-profit.

However, ARTstor does provide a way to download very high-resolution images free-of-charge for use in noncommercial scholarly publications. ARTstor's Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative seeks to facilitate scholarship in the arts by reducing the costs associated with publishing images in academic journals and similar publications. ARTstor users can download IAP images by providing some basic information and agreeing to the IAP Terms & Conditions of Use. To find an image that is available through IAP, simply add "IAP" to your search criteria. IAP images will have an icon reading "IAP" located directly beneath their thumbnail image. In some instances, third-party copyright permissions may be needed (such as where the underlying work in an image is still under copyright).

What are ARTstor's standards for descriptive metadata and cataloging?
Descriptive data records make it possible to find images within ARTstor and enhance the usefulness of the images for teaching, learning, and research by providing important contextual information. A key challenge and goal for ARTstor has been to integrate these descriptions in such a way that users of the Digital Library can search and browse across disparate image collections in a unified way without losing the integrity of the original descriptions.

For more information, see our section on descriptive data standards.

Is there a standardized set of descriptive data fields for the objects in ARTstor?
The data fields in ARTstor are modeled after VRA Core, an image cataloging standard created by the Visual Resources Association. However, because each collection comes from a different contributor, there will be differences in the cataloging of different collections and the fields available or specific terms used may differ. Some fields that do have standardized data are Classification, Geography and Date. These fields provide for cross-collection browsing and searching.

Why do artist/creator names sometimes list as first-last and sometimes as last-first?
Because of differences in cataloging, the format of an artist/creator name may differ from collection to collection. We are working to standardize all data records, including the formatting of artist/creator names.

Can I search and sort by date?
Yes. To search by date, use the Advanced Search option. This allows you to enter either a single date or a date range in addition to other search criteria. When viewing the results of a search, you can use the Sort-by-Date option on the image thumbnail screen to order your results by date.

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ARTstor collections

How does ARTstor define "art"?
ARTstor's definition of "art" includes architecture, painting, photography, sculpture, decorative arts and design, as well as archeological and anthropological objects, and visual and material culture more generally. We actively seek out collections that are of interest to users across the humanities and beyond.

What can be found in the ARTstor Digital Library?
The ARTstor Library is a collection of collections. It is the product of a growing number of collection development partnerships with individuals and institutions in the U.S. and abroad. The ARTstor Library may be searched as an integrated whole or by its constituent collections.

See a list of current and upcoming ARTstor collections and read about each in detail on our Collections description & status page.

What new collections is ARTstor developing?
ARTstor's development of new collections is shaped by two primary goals: to strengthen ARTstor's value to individuals all across the arts and humanities who wish to use digital images in the context of teaching, learning, and scholarship; and, to share digital collections developed by participating institutions and end users, and to enrich ARTstor with contributions from such individuals and institutions.

For more information about our collection development effort, see our Collections description & status page.

How can individuals and institutions share content with the community through ARTstor?
Individuals and institutions interested in sharing collections for teaching and learning through ARTstor should email

Does ARTstor include contemporary art in the Digital Library?
ARTstor is committed to incorporating 20th and 21st century art in the ARTstor Digital Library.

In compiling and making available the ARTstor Digital Library, ARTstor is in part relying on the fair use exception to copyright. But we are also trying to build a resource that will be embraced by everyone, including content owners (such as artists, photographers, and museums) as well as users. As part of this approach, we have reached out to, and in some instances are actively engaged in discussions with, representatives of artists, museums, and other rights holders. During this period of getting people acquainted and comfortable with this community project, we have refrained from including some images of copyrighted works in the ARTstor Digital Library with the belief that this would facilitate some of those discussions.

We recognize that modern and contemporary art are of central importance, and that our approach to these issues means that the ARTstor Digital Library will not have works of some of these key artists for some period of time. We believe that this somewhat complex, multifaceted approach is the best way to build a sustainable resource over time.

We have made significant progress on this issue by negotiating agreements with individual artists and artist estates, such as:

We also have made agreements with several artist rights groups:

We are actively negotiating with artists and additional rights groups.

We will continue to provide updates as we progress in making images from these agreements available. New announcements about collections growth are sent via our announcements e-mail list and are posted on our blog.

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Technology and services

Do I need special software to access ARTstor?
ARTstor is committed to making its collections available without requiring subscribers to purchase any third-party software. ARTstor's own tools enable all intended uses of the ARTstor Digital Library, and can support those uses better than third-party software. The tools that users may utilize to access the ARTstor Digital Library online are browser-based and require no software downloads; the presentation tool (OIV) does require a software download which is available through the online ARTstor application.

Does ARTstor work with Macs?
Yes, ARTstor works with Macs. Refer to our System requirements page for more detail.

Why has ARTstor developed its own software tools?
We explored a range of options for delivering ARTstor content to users and supporting use of the Digital Library. After careful consideration and consultation with many interested parties, we concluded that ARTstor's effort to build and distribute an image library over the internet in a way that is both easy to use and secure is different from other practices now served by various tool sets; given the unusual challenges that this represents, we decided to develop our own tools. We also believe that ARTstor needs to be responsive to the needs of our users, and the only way to ensure that we can be responsive in this way is to be as autonomous as possible.

Can users make use of their own images along with the content in ARTstor?
We recognize the importance of enabling users to view and make use of their own images along with content from the ARTstor Digital Library. ARTstor users are able to do so in several ways:

What support services does ARTstor offer?
We believe ARTstor's software tools are intuitive and user-friendly. We also recognize that the transition from analog to digital represents a sea change in the areas of teaching, learning, and scholarship. ARTstor's User Services staff works closely with existing and evolving support services at licensing institutions (in libraries, instructional technology and IT departments, and in visual resources departments) to help ensure that ARTstor users' support needs are addressed effectively.

For more information, see our section on Support & training.

Does ARTstor offer training sessions for participating institutions?
ARTstor offers a variety of training options for those who would like to learn more about using the ARTstor Digital Library and the OIV presentation software:

Refer to the Using ARTstor section for more information about these training options.

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What uses of ARTstor are permitted?
Individuals who are affiliated with subscribing institutions and who consent to ARTstor's terms and conditions of use will be able to: search and browse across all of ARTstor collections, use images and text online, create portfolios of images, and make use of content in ARTstor for presentations and lectures, course reserves, classroom handouts, student presentations and papers, and research projects. ARTstor will also be available to "walk-in" users of library facilities and other computing clusters at licensing institutions.

For more information, please see our guide to permitted and prohibited uses.

What uses of ARTstor are prohibited?
Users of ARTstor may not use the content in ARTstor for any commercial purpose, including incorporating content in print or electronic publications distributed through a press (whether commercial or noncommercial). The only exception to this are the images provided through our Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative. Additionally, users may not distribute widely ARTstor content, such as through unrestricted websites. When feasible, ARTstor will provide copyright information associated with content in the ARTstor database to facilitate requests for publication permissions from third parties.

For more information, please see our guide to permitted and prohibited uses.

What is ARTstor's approach to intellectual property rights?
ARTstor's approach to intellectual property rights mirrors ARTstor's mission: to become a community-supported resource that enhances scholarship, teaching, and learning in the arts and associated fields. ARTstor recognizes that this mission means balancing the interests of intellectual property owners with the value of making collections of digital images of art works and related cataloging widely available for pedagogical and scholarly purposes.

The aggregation and distribution of art images can raise complex intellectual property rights issues. After considerable consultation with intellectual property experts, content owners, and potential users, ARTstor believes that this terrain can be navigated in a way that benefits everyone, and that makes these important resources widely available for educational and scholarly purposes.

For more information on ARTstor's approach to intellectual property rights issues, see our Statement of Intellectual Property Rights.

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